"Information is the life blood of medicine and health information technology is destined to be the circulatory system for that information”- David Blumenthal
The launch of National Digital Health Mission will shortly catapult India to transform its current health system to a completely digital one.
With such rapid developments at the policy level , the question arises how ready are we doctors to embrace these changes. How much have we really taken advantage of our "brother from another mother” – Technology - in our day to day practice?
In my experience as a doctor working across the demographic spectrum of healthcare right from a Primary health care center to a tertiary super speciality corporate hospital, I’ve seen both, the need for and the gaps in the availability of technology.
Though all of us have used “Uncle Google'' during our life as medical students to save our neck in clinical rounds with our superiors ,the same annoys us when our patients come with their own google derived diagnosis.
“Information about health online has become ubiquitous, but poor understanding or filtering of the huge content often triggers the wrong sentiment in us.”
For most of us, health and technology convergence during our MBBS life has been limited to just this - An occasional google search, fitbits , and diet tracking apps. With the rapid influx of technology in health care, I think it's time for a dissection of innovative health technologies out there from a doctor's point of view - the good, bad and the ugly.
In my first episode of this blog series , I will share my 2 pennies about digital practice platforms.
Following are the pros and cons
- EHR can convert disparate data to actionable clinical information
- The not so artificial intelligence
- Telemedicine- Erasing time and distance in patient care
- Health over Disease- Refocus on patient centric care
- Force of habit
- Data privacy and confidentiality
EHR can convert disparate data to actionable clinical information
To tap the potential of a digital health ecosystem , EHR is just the stepping stone.
Digitisation of health records often tends to be falsely restricted to big corporate hospitals in metropolitans.However the utility of this is largely lost the minute a patient changes hospitals or doctors leading to a fragmented record of patient's medical journey.
Although the utility of EHR is multifold in the larger picture, for a doctor practicing day in and day out the experience of having a patient's entire medical history at fingertips without having to flip through poorly maintained prescriptions and lab records is definitely a plus.
The not so artificial intelligence
In November 1999, a landmark report was released in the US -
"To Err is Human: Building a safer health system" which opened the conversations about avoidable medical errors. The report stated that nearly 98000 lives are lost in the US due to avoidable medical errors. The report further stressed on the fact that these errors can be attributed not to individual health care providers but there needs to be a systemic change in the healthcare system.
My search for relevant technology led me to many platforms that provide impressive and unique ways of generating e-prescription. Some are focussed on e-vaccination card for paediatric patients, while many others provide seamless appointment management.
Out of all these ,platforms such as Eka care has stood out for providing an intelligent prescription environment focussing on avoiding medication errors.
Alerts on prescribing contraindicated drugs , prompts on possible differential diagnosis , vitals monitoring, vernacular prescriptions are examples of how small hacks in collaboration with technology can largely minimise oversights and amplify the quality of patient care provided
Telemedicine- Erasing time and distance in patient care
Telemedicine has proved to be the cornerstone to achieve universal health coverage in our country. Covid-19 has only accelerated the uptake and acceptance for this new modality of patient care.
The digital prescription platforms like DocOn and Eka care , have provided tele-consultation experiences which allows even individual practitioners to expand their reach and care to remotest parts of the country erasing all geographical barriers
Health over Disease- Refocus on patient centric care
With increasing burden of chronic diseases and focus on preventive approach to health care,Tech solutions like whatsapp bots provided by the digital prescription platforms not only act as a virtual bridge to doctor-patient engagement but also can greatly improve compliance to treatment and patient loyalty.
Today we are at a juncture of technological innovations promising to transform the health care system for the better but just like every new innovation , it must undergo a certain amount of scrutiny before complete acceptance sets in.
Human beings are creatures of habit ,and a doctor who is accustomed to a non-digital means of patient care will definitely face some teething issues while adapting to such technology.
The onus to make this transformation smooth however lies with both the doctor and the tech provider.
More importantly however, is the concern around data privacy and patient confidentiality. Unless we as doctors are absolutely assured about these two key aspects it would be a hard job to convince us to embrace any of these platforms .
One can either look at technology in health care as an intrusion or as an innovation to enhance the quality of our care.
It’s wise to adopt and adapt to the new world order driven by technology rather than to resist and fight; for after all, better patient care is the bedrock of our choices.
Adopting innovations and adapting to the inevitable change is the choice I have made. I’m sure you too shall make yours.
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